Film review

The Werckmeister Harmonies

OPENS APRIL 18, CERT 12A, 45 MINS

Hungarian master Bela Tarr doesn't like to rush things. His 1994 film, Satantango, runs over seven hours, its narrative patterns unfolding gracefully and gradually. At two-and-a-half hours, The Werckmeister Harmonies is a mere sketch by comparison, although the four years it took to make and the 15-minute opening shot are details that tell their own story.

Based on the novel, The Melancholy Of Resistance, by Lászlo Krasznahorkai—itself not a model of brevity—Tarr's film tells of a small Hungarian town that is visited in the night by a mysterious figure called "the Prince" and his travelling "sensation" (a huge stuffed whale). This unaccountably potent attraction causes unrest among the townspeople, a situation watched with wonder and alarm by local dreamer Janos (Lars Rudolph). Tarr balances cosmic order and provincial chaos to create an epic of tragedy, confusion, horror and savage humour; his uncompromising, long-take style creates an all-enveloping experience from which one emerges dazzled and deeply affected, if not fully comprehending. This is monumental filmmaking that has no contemporary equal.

Rating: 5 / 10


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